After a recent gathering of Anglican primates in Canterbury, England, Archbishop Welby published a reflection on the meeting.
As leaders of the family of Anglican churches in a world so racked by violence and fear, we gathered in Canterbury with much to share and discuss – from climate change to religiously motivated violence. A significant part of the week was spent discussing how – or even if – we could remain together as the Anglican Communion in the light of changes made by our brothers and sisters in The Episcopal Church (the historic Anglican Communion church in the USA and some other countries) to their understanding of marriage. (My emphasis)The present policy in the Episcopal Church is to welcome all members of the church to all the sacramental rites of the church, including Christian marriage for faithful, committed couples of the same sex. The question as to whether Christian marriage always consists in the lifetime union of one man and one woman would seem to me to have been settled by acceptance of divorce by Anglican churches. Jesus himself never spoke of same sex marriage, but he spoke clearly about divorce. If it was possible for Anglicans to overcome their scruples about divorce, then why has the union of faithful couples of the same sex become so serious a matter as to provoke threats of schism before the primates gathering? As it was, the primate of the Anglican Church in Uganda, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, left the meeting early to protest the failure of a vote for a resolution asking the primates of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to leave the meeting. Later in the meeting, sanctions were imposed on the Episcopal Church.
We remain committed to being together, albeit we asked that TEC, while attending and playing a full part in our meetings and all discussions, will not represent the Anglican Communion to other churches and should not be involved in standing committees for a period of three years. During this time we also asked that they not vote on matters of doctrine or how we organise ourselves.So. The Episcopal Church was pushed to the margins of the Anglican Communion for instituting policies and practices that include justice and equality for all its members. Archbishop Welby continues.
There will be wounds for each other, but we must repent of wounding others who are especially vulnerable, whether they are LGBTI people or those menaced by religiously-motivated violence, terrorism and exile. Some, of course, will fall in many categories.From my vantage in the Episcopal Church, it's impossible for me to view the "unity" that came from the primates gathering as "joyful and astonishing, renewing and nourishing". What a strange way to comment on a policy which wounds and continues to discriminate against the Episcopal Church for practicing justice and equality.
But that unity is also joyful and astonishing, renewing and nourishing – because it is unity in love for Jesus Christ, whose single family we are, often argumentative, sometimes cruel (which is deeply wrong) but created by God and belonging to each other irrevocably.
Also, since marriages of couples of the same sex remain forbidden in the Church of England, how is it possible for Justin Welby to imagine that LGTB persons and their supporters in his own church take joy, renewal, or nourishment from the outcome of the primates meeting? Pain and astonishment perhaps at the continuing injustice which wounds the members of the archbishop's own church, but there is no joy. That's not to mention LGTB members of Anglican churches in other countries in Africa and the Global South, where persecution and discrimination are much more severe, who look to Christians in the West for help and support.
Does Justin Welby himself believe what he says? Does he expect LGTB Anglicans and members of TEC to believe what he says? The archbishop apologizes for marginalizing groups of people, but he does not change his ways. How is his apology in any way sincere when he continues to wound and marginalize? The marginalized will believe him when he practices justice and equality.
In the end, church policies affect real people, which I wonder if Anglican church leaders forget, or, if they remember, they quickly put such thoughts out of their minds. Since I have gay and lesbian friends in the Church of England, I care very much about policies and practices that not only hurt my friends and many others but also result in destructive, long-lasting consequences in their lives.
Photo of Justin Welby from Wikimedia Commons.